Series: Shepherds Roar
Message: Versus: Against All Odds
Preacher: Tony Hunter
Reflection: Nathan Brown
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Zan Long
Live Beyond: Art Preuss
Live Purpose: Kyle Smith
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Amos 3-4 in the New Living Translation (NLT). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: The people of Israel had a long history with God, stretching back to the calling of Abraham, their exodus from Egypt, and the subsequent establishment of their nation in the “Promised Land” of Canaan. Almost 500 years later, the people still regarded this as their insurance policy, their failsafe that they were the chosen people no matter how far they might have wandered from God. Despite their divided kingdom and faded national glory, they assumed that God was on their side come what may.
Amos reminded the people that God had chosen them specially, that He had rescued them from Egypt. Again we can imagine his audience swelling with this sense of divine favor and national pride. But, continued Amos, speaking from the perspective of God, “that is why I must punish you for all your sins” (Amos 3:2, NLT).
This is the challenge of chosenness. The people of Israel had a special story and history. They were living in the land that God had promised to them. Because of their intimacy with God in the past, they seemed to have special insights—perhaps we could describe them as better theological understandings—into the reality, the nature and the expectations of God. But, Amos urged, they had lost sight of what this truly meant and who that called them to be.
And precisely because of the special relationship, God seemed to have a special regard for their punishment. Because of their intimacy, experience, and understanding, their sins would be judged more harshly and perhaps punished to an even greater degree than those of the cruel nations surrounding them.
Yet even the prophetic ministry and message of Amos was one more evidence of God’s special concern for His people—and the opportunities they had to return to Him and His ways (see Amos 3:7). God had not given up on them. But they needed a change of perspective, attitude, and action. They were not to assume that God was on their side, but to consider whether they were on God’s side. It was a vital choice, with potentially grim consequences.
Recalibrate: How can chosenness be a challenge? What are some of the ways you see this play out in families, churches, and nations?
Respond: Pray these words: “God, thank you that You have chosen us, but may we also always choose You.”
Remember: “Before the Lord God does anything, He tells His servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7, ICB).
Nathan Brown is a writer and book editor at Signs Publishing Company, near Melbourne, Australia. Nathan is author/editor of 16 books, including two this year—Of Falafels and Following Jesus and For the Least of These.
Does your child have a special, well loved toy? Does it go with your little one everywhere? What happens when the special toy is lost? We go to every length to find the toy don’t we? We are so special to God. Unlike a toy we have the power to choose if we stay with Him. With your little one talk about all the things you and your special toy have experienced together. Know that when God is our most special one, nothing can take Him from us.
Imagine that you have been given the best Lego ever. What would you build with it? Would you share your Lego with other kids? God gives us so many ways to do good things with what we have. Our text this week in Amos Chapters 3 and 4 tells us about how God’s chosen people, the Israelites, chose to do bad things with the good gifts God had given them. Amos was sent to tell them to stop what they were doing and to go back to God’s plans.
God is such a wonderful God that one of His greatest characteristics is that He is always faithful to His promises. As a matter of fact, that is how He describes Himself: “You only have I known . . . .” This is like God saying, “I have treated you as my best friend! I have not betrayed you, ever! But you can’t seem to want to walk along with me. You don’t agree with how we have set up our relationship. And because we can’t see eye to eye, I have to do something drastic about this mistrust in order for you to understand that I want us to walk side by side.”
Let’s get real: Look up Psalm 139:13-16. How does God knowing you affect your views of Him? Have you ever thought of God wanting to be your best friend? How have you tried to develop this relationship so that you and God become BFFs?
I have a student in my youth group who is always getting called out in class by teachers. The funny thing is that he isn’t a bad guy. In fact, he is quite the opposite! He is athletic, a good student, makes great grades and has a gift for people. The teachers will call on him first when he may start to goof off too much with his buddies. He came to one day and said, “Pastor Kyle it isn't fair, I’m always getting picked on by my teachers and I am one of the best behaved students!” Israel was in a similar situation to my friend. God saw that Israel had begun to slip away from Him, and He responded harshly. As we learned in the main reflection, “this is the challenge of closeness.” Often times when you are gifted, and people see there is a great future for you, they will be extra tough on you. This is because they are trying to keep you on the path to success. This is what God was doing with Israel. He knew the people intimately, He saw their potential, and He wanted to bring them back to a life in Him. Do you think holding people to a higher standard is fair? How have you experienced, “the challenge of chosenness” in your life?
Zan Long is GRC director for faith development for ages 0-17. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and serves at her local church in nearby Kellyville.
Art Preuss pastors in Massachusetts at the Springfield, Florence, and Warren Adventist churches and serves in the U. S. Air Force Reserve as a chaplain.
Kyle Smith is the associate pastor of youth and family ministries at New Haven Adventist Church in Overland Park, Kansas.